Migrants get bad press in the media

LoRa community migrant radio in Zurich, hosting programmes such as Spanish-speaking Martes Latino, is Switzerland's oldest of its kind © LoRa

The Swiss media hardly reports on migration issues and what they do highlight – often crime - puts foreigners in a negative light.

This content was published on May 21, 2009 minutes

The authors of a new study commissioned by the Federal Communications Office found that migrants felt they had a bad press and that the media could do more to counter this.

Community radio for foreigners was particularly commended for its integration work.

The Migration, Media and Integration study carried out by Zurich University and radio training centre klipp & klang - the first of its kind in Switzerland – looked at the output of both private and public broadcasters.

"We saw that only around 6.4 per cent of the total coverage of political themes is dealing with migration and migrants, so the representation is weak," study leader Heinz Bonfadelli told at the media presentation of the results on Monday.

"Especially the private commercial radio reports were based on negative news values, usually linking migrants to crimes, drug crimes or traffic violations," said the professor of mass communication at Zurich University.

Overall 46 per cent of reporting was found to have a negative slant.

Migrants agreed with the findings. A poll carried out for the study revealed that two thirds of those asked said that foreigners received a bad press. This rose to around 80 per cent among Turkish migrants and naturalised Swiss with migration backgrounds.

Voices not heard

"They criticise that there are only a few programmes in which they are represented. They don't have an opportunity to speak for themselves, usually politicians and experts are quoted on migration issues," Bonfadelli said.

Community radio for foreigners – who make up more than 20 per cent of the Swiss population – was also assessed. There are now seven of these radio stations in Switzerland – one has opened since the study was made - covering more than 20 languages.

The research found that the six stations surveyed covered topics such as news from abroad and problems facing migrants, as well as offering cultural programmes.

Most migrants listen to or use the press in German. This is in addition to sources from their countries of origin.

There was therefore no "media ghetto" of foreign communities, as has been put forward by some politicians, Bonfadelli said. Nor were the community radios found to be producing "parallel" worlds. Indeed, the authors concluded that they made a valuable contribution to integration.

Nadia Bellardi, head of public relations at Zurich-based LoRa, the oldest community radio for foreigners in Switzerland, said that she welcomed the study.

Important role

"The report certainly highlights the role community radio plays in facilitating community access to people with a migration background to the media and to social networks," she told after at the news conference.

Often these stations are run by volunteers. "A lot of programmes provide useful information in the language of the various communities, such as how do I send my children to school, how can I find a job," Bellardi said.

Much of the content is related to what is going on in the home countries, which is particularly useful to asylum seekers and refugees, she added.

In addition, many radio stations offer multilingual programming. LoRa, for example, has a programme in both Farsi and German.

Bellardi was not surprised by the results showing a negative slant to reporting and that migrants were unhappy with this.

Few migrant journalists

One of the main problems is that not many journalists – away from the community radios – have a migration background, she said.

This was confirmed by the study which found that only five per cent of reporters in Switzerland were of foreign origin. One of its main recommendations is that this be addressed.

"Journalists of a migration background are more sensitive to the topic, they have a different perspective on what's going on," Bonfadelli said.

Swiss journalists could benefit from more training in intercultural communication, the professor added.

Output could also be amended. "On the programme level we recommend strongly having more diversity in the topics covered," said Bonfadelli.

"We think it would especially be important to have more programmes and stories on successful examples of integration, and especially focus at the local level on migrants' way of life and the problems they have."

Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich,

Community radios

There are 7 community radios for migrants on air in Switzerland (not counting internet radios). All but one are in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

The most widely represented language is Spanish, followed by programmes aimed at communities from the Balkans, Turkey (in Turkish and Kurdish) as well as Italy and Portugal.
English is also well represented.

Around 40% of the programmes in the stations covered by the study were multilingual (German or French and another language).

Most programme makers have a migration background and are well educated and integrated, the study found. 75% are men.

Around half of the migrants surveyed in the study said they used media targeted at migrants (radio, internet portals, newspapers).

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